Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Why Brazil Leads the Region in CSR

Modern Brazilian firms are now the hemisphere’s template for conscientious civic involvement. But not all of their compatriots are getting the message.

Brazilian companies practice social responsibility with a degree of sophistication unparalleled in Latin America. They lead rankings of corporate sustainability in the sub-hemisphere due to a unique creativity that—in the best cases—makes profits and ethics work together. However, the corporate world in Brazil also reflects the huge social and economic disparities of the country. Highly developed companies, aligned with international standards of social responsibility, coexist with others that still engage in child labor, environmental degradation and even slavery. While the best firms are serving as models for the neighboring countries, there is still much to do within Brazil itself.

“In Brazil, social responsibility has evolved in waves and such evolution is happening at a faster pace,” says Ricardo Young, president of the Ethos Institute for Business and Social Responsibility, a not-for-profit group that has worked with business members to help raise the ethical standards of Brazilian corporations for almost a decade. According to Young, many businessmen already have a very advanced vision. They know, for example, that even if they reduce water consumption per unit produced, the impact will increase if sales increase. “Some companies have gone so far as to discuss limiting production,” he says. “If cadmium reserves are finite, it becomes clear that we cannot keep producing cell phones at the current rate.”

A good example of how this consciousness is changing the way that Brazilian companies make their profits is Project Plasma, a partnership between Klabin (paper), Tetra Pak (long-life packaging), Alcoa (aluminum), and TSL Ambiental (residue treatment). These companies joined forces to solve a serious environmental problem in a creative and profitable manner. All three had an interest in recycling the three materials that make up long-life packaging (aluminum, paper and plastic), used mainly for juices, milk and others beverages. However, they lacked a technique that could separate these materials efficiently. Paper could be recovered, but the remaining plastic and aluminum had to be discarded…

Tags: ABN AMRO Real Bank, Brazil, Corporate social responsibility, CSR, Ethos Institute for Business and Social Responsibility, GIFE, Grupo de Institutos Fundacoes e Empresas, IBOPE, President Lula, Regina Scharf, Ricardo Young, Sergio Gabrielli
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